Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Montgomery Ward Spring Summer 1943 Catalog: no.1

So there are thousands of images on Pinterest alone, and there is perhaps no way to see all of the resource images which exist from the 1940s (or any other era). Still, after a while you do start to become familiar with many images, and your eye may begin to crave new never before seen (by you of course, not in the history of all time) resources. At least that was part of my excuse for spending some pretty pennies on a huge Montgomery Ward catalog that definitely has more pages covering farm equipment and spark plugs than it does womens fashion. The pages on womens fashion however...are AMAZING!

Of course I didn't purchase this frail cracking old catalog for myself really, I bought it for us! I'm still not exactly sure the best way to digitize the pages for study, but I have started taking some photos with my camera in RAW format to capture as much detail as I can with less than ideal lighting. I have spliced pages together using two photos to get a clearer image of each side, but they are paired with their original partner just as they appear in the catalog. I have only lightly edited these for contrast and light, but the yellowed/brown color of the paper is evident. Some pages are printed in full color and are so gorgeous!

Page one features coats in fun bright colors for spring! I am super excited to share these images with you and study a few in more detail. It is really great to see the clothes of course, but also how they are worn and styled! Studying the accessories paired with the different ensembles helps grow my understanding of how different styles of hats were worn for example. Since I left these images pretty big you can zoom in and read the text accompanying each item and get details on the fabric and different colors something might have come in!

For example these suits are described as follows:

"Classic Suit...Key to a summer-long wardrobe, made to mate with all the pieces on these 2 pages. High fashion colors in acetate and spun rayon, crepey cross weave. Jacket described Pg. 5. Skirt has new slimness; 1 kick pleat, front, back. Concealed button side placket; 1 1/2 in. hem. Dry clean. Colors: Brt. Red, Mint Green, or Tabacco-Brown. Misses sizes: 12, 14, 16, 18, 20...2-pc. Suit $10.75, Skirt only $4.50"

More color for pages 6 & 7 (they consider the cover page 1 oddly). Honestly I'd love one of each of everything on these pages! These beige suits and plaid dresses are super dreamy. Notice how the suits are styled: The first with a colorful plaid as the blouse, matching plaid belt and hat, and worn with black gloves. The second suit is paired with monochromatic hat and gloves that match the suit but bring out the brown buttons on the suit with a brown clutch handbag and accent the neutrals with a peacock blue scarf at the neck. The plaid dresses are both paired with matching gloves and hat sets, in black and blue respectively.

Next we have a page highlighting some fabrics available by the yard. This information is quite useful for those of us who sew reproduction clothes as it tells us exactly what our vintage counterparts were using and had access to. Underneath these we see more accessories presented as sets! Each of these is provided along with suggestions for which colors to wear them with.

A page of ensembles in a color they describe as "dusty aqua". All are styled with either brown or matching blue accessories. Note also the matching self fabric belts with the sea shell print rayon dresses. Great variety of hat styles and hair styles too!

The hits just keep coming, I mean a bright yellow suit paired with striking black accessories? Yes please! Check out all of the different ways hat veiling is used here too! The hat in the center insert on page 13 (above right) comes in several colors: "Black, Navy, or Light Gray--each with matching veil, white dots; Beige with brown veil." Once again, I'd like one of each please <3

Here we get a size chart, and it turns out in 1943 I am a size 20, so now I know how to fill out the order form, too bad I'll need a time machine to mail it in! The dress on the right with the thin darts radiating arrows across the bodice though... Light blue, aqua or navy blue ladies. Damn that's gorgeous!

More, more, and more beautiful dresses here on pages 16 & 17. Details to note include the way the dress waist darts drape over the belt in the second dress from the left (dress C) and the cord trimming on the pockets of the first jacket on page 17 (D). Also more fantastic hats, give me all the hats.

Look at all these matching covered belts! I need to up my belt making game obviously. The full front view of these dresses shows perfectly just where the darts are and my mind immediately imagines the pattern modifications needed to create each style. So many ideas for things to sew, just endless variations. If only it were easier to find rayon crepe! Also on an editorial note, how "photoshop" are these layouts with the photos totally cut out on the white background? More proof that manipulating photos isn't a modern invention. It is so nice to see clothing in photographs and not just drawings. As much as I adore the drawings from pattern envelopes (and I really do), it is so great to see the clothes on real people.

More details to take note of: the length of the sleeves (to the elbow in many cases), the easy to recreate tie belts in self fabric, and the ubiquity of the the shirt dress button front. Removable collars (or a dicky as they are called) are described as washable and offering variety. The last dress with the wrap style front in the bottom right is such a classic style that I would love in every color.

Here on page 22 we are introduced to the good, better, best options for each dress. I find the quality options so interesting, the different fabrics indicating a change in price and described longevity. These dresses also seem to have more of the military style influence than any we'd seen yet in the catalog. The prints on page 23 are described as cowboy print, or snail print! Snails? okay...

Again, just....I WANT THESE! *sigh* Anyways, splash prints forever please. Also can these gals teach me how to get my hair just like theirs? I've run out of things to say, every dress is dream worthy gorgeous.

And as I am out of words, I'll stop here for now! Don't you worry though, I've got dozens of pages to show you, and those are just of the clothes! I still have to photograph the accessories, fabrics and even interior decor pages if anyone is interested in those too. I'll have to see how much it would cost to get this catalog scanned on a large format scanner but I'm afraid that could get pricey with so many pages. I'm not sure, I just know I want to preserve these pages somehow as the brittle old paper is already suffering in places and you can tell it longs to turn to dust. I wonder what happened to the archives of these catalogs they must have had in storage at some point at Wards, I assume they threw them out at some point long before they eventually closed. What a missed opportunity to publish the collected fashion sections as a several volume reference book series for us retro ladies. Hopefully other companies see the value in such archives but I doubt it!

I hope you enjoyed these pages, let me know if you want a more detailed photo of any of the pages ;)


  1. Thank you for buying us this catalogue!

    Looking at the beige suits, I might have to revise the date I thought was applicable to my Printzess Cooltimer - maybe it's earlier than I thought.

    1. I'm glad you like it! I am always surprised by the dates of things, something that seems certain to be one date can always turn out to be much earlier or later! No matter how long I've been studying there is always more to learn :)

  2. Oh my word, that is amazing!! I bet it set you back a pretty penny but definitely worth it. I could so see you in that yellow suit with the black accessories, it's very you.

    Whenever I see in vintage magazines or on the packet of a sewing pattern that you can send away for things from them, I'm always tempted to send a letter doing just that and seeing what happens. I do wonder if the people working or living in the building would know why it was sent to that address. xx

    1. The only trouble I want to buy more catalogs! I am trying to resist, but who knows what treasure troves of images are inside!

      I really want to fill out the order form in the back, except I'd need extra pages to fill in the multitude of items I'd love from this catalog. Especially since it seems like everything comes in at least 3 colors too!

  3. Wonderful catalogue, thank you for sharing! Much more interesting than the catalogues I get through the door these days. Do you own a yellow suit? I could see that working for you. X

    1. Thanks Porcelina! I sadly don't have any yellow in my clothing wardrobe really, just in accessories. I'm not sure which shade would work best with my skin tone in this full body look, but I'd love to find out <3

  4. Umm, so I was so engrossed in this post that I missed switching trains when I should have and have given myself an hour's extension to my commute home, and will miss my yoga class!! Argh!! Such pretty dresses though...

    1. Oh no! My apologies, though I'm glad you liked it!

  5. Such a treasure trove of beautiful dresses!! Thank-you so much for sharing these images with us. You are right; it is such a treat to be able to see "never before seen" images.
    The Artyologist

    1. Thanks Nicole! I could easily fall down the rabbit hole of catalog collecting, but I will have to resist for now. They are such an amazing resource!


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